GENRE: Wonderfalls, Fan-fiction, Majandra/Aaron, Jaye/Eric
SUMMARY: I had to. I love these two couples. And I loved this show. I hope these two post-finale episodes provide a bit more closure for other fans.
est. reading time: 30 minutes
“I’m fine.” Jaye insisted for the twentieth time.
“Are you sure, hun? What you went through would be traumatizing for anyone. I think you should start going back to your therapist. -I mean, my God. That crazy man almost killed you. And then he was killed right in front of you.”
How her mother managed to keep her calm sultry voice, even now, Jaye didn’t know.
“Reminding me isn’t helping…” Jaye said, through her teeth.
She blinked a couple of times. “Ya’ know, Sharon was there, too.”
“Yeah, I was… but I wasn’t babbling like a crazy person. And I didn’t get myself kidnaped by the gunman, nor did I witness his flattening by an ambulance.”
Sharon smoothed down her impeccable suit. “I think mother’s right.”
Jaye sighed. “…I’m going home to my trailer.”
Jaye lay on her red double-sized bed and daydreamed about Eric. She couldn’t believe he was staying and divorced. He was free!…but she did wonder what the Wax Lion’s advice was. At least now she knew she could make them shut-up sometimes.
Her cellphone rang.
“What.” She intoned.
“Eric!” She sat up on her bed.
“-I’m not satisfied.”
“Beer and fries at the bar where I work, isn’t enough….When are we going to have a real date?”
“Uhm, real date?”
“Preferably, away from my job. Where do you want to go?”
Jaye paced in the tiny trailer, frowning. She’d never considered any place in Niagara a good “date place.”
“Ya’ know…I couldn’t tell ya’. I think, I may have to do some research first, -call Mahandra, maybe she knows a good “date place”.
She could practically hear Eric’s cynical look on the other end.
“Okay…She probably doesn’t know either, but I do need some time to think about this. I promise I’m not blowing you off.”
“No. We haven’t gotten to that point, yet.”
“Oh, did you just catch a sexual pun?” Jaye asked sarcastically.
She heard him smile on the other end.
“Okay… We’ve had our challenges getting to this point. I can wait a little longer. Just let me know when you think of a place.”
“Okay.” Jaye allowed herself a rare optimistic smile.
She closed her phone and immediately re-opened it.
Mahandra’s number glowed on the screen. It rang…and rang.
“Come on, Mahandra pick up.”
While she waited, it hit her.
Oh GOD! She’d called Aaron, that morning…She was sure of it. They were having sex, ALREADY!
They were probably having sex, right now.
“-Eww, Eww, Eww…Didn’t need that picture.”
Jaye said aloud.
She furrowed her face into a pout.
“I haven’t even had sex with Eric, yet.”
She plopped back down on her red bed.
“OH! OH! OOOOOH!” Mahandra bounced on top of Aaron while he attempted to hold her, slow her down, a bit.
Her phone vibrated on her night stand…until it fell off.
Aaron’s eyes widened as he felt the first signs of his impending orgasm. His toes curled, just beyond the edge of her bed.
Soon afterwards, she tensed up and fell on top of him, in a heap.
She sighed, deeply.
“See. The sex…” He gasped “-is just as good, now that our secret is out.”
She laughed. “But I liked the sneaking.”
“I have to admit, so did I.”
Mahandra looked up into Aaron’s face. “So, how are the ‘rents taking it?”
“They haven’t really talked to me about it, yet. I think they’re still in shock.
They’re doing better than you thought they would, anywa-”
“-Ah!” Mahandra held up her hand. “-We don’t know that yet.”
“Mahandra, seriously. Who cares? We’re both adults.”
“Yes, but I still respect your family. I’ve been around them too long to break their hearts.”
Aaron sighed, exasperated.
“I’m taking a shower.” He got up and padded to her bathroom.
Mahandra sat up and reached down to the floor. She picked up her cell.
Jaye’s name glowed on the front screen.
She pressed re-dial.
“Mahandra, I need your help.”
“Don’t you always?” Mahandra said, her voice dry as paper.
Jaye ignored it. “Do you know of any good dating spots?”
“Eric wants a real date and he doesn’t know this town. And I don’t go on dates, so what do I know?”
Mahandra rolled her eyes. “Jaye, every guy you’ve EVER hung out with, in your entire life? …Those were dates.”
“No, they weren’t.”
“Ya-huh, they were. You were just too busy trying to get rid of them, to notice.”
“Whatever. -I’m coming to your apartment.”
“No! You can’t do that. I’m busy. Come by later.”
“Mahandra, you’re never busy…Unless.” Jaye covered her mouth.
“Aaron’s over there right now, isn’t he?!”
“-No comment, gotta go, bye!” She clapped her phone shut.
“…So.” Aaron said as he stood at the bathroom door, drying his hair with a towel, that should be wrapped around his waist. “How’s Jaye?”
“Fiiine.” Mahandra said, her eyebrow arched upwards.
“I mean, she’s doing fine.”
She got up, a devilish grin spreading across her face.
“You’re fine, too.” Aaron said, also grinning.
Jaye, decided to head down to the bar. At least she could see Eric face-to-face.
As she got out of her car, a little girl skipped across her path, almost running into her.
“Hey! Watch it, kid!”
“Sorry.” The girl said sheepishly.
Jaye immediately regretted her sharpness.
As the girl turned to leave, Jaye noticed a little keychain hanging from her coat-pocket. A tiny turquoise blue elephant dangled, clacking against the various other charms attached to her keys.
It turned and looked at her. “Talk to her.”
“Oh, great.” She whispered. “Not now.”
“Hey! Little girl!” She said, jogging up behind her.
“What’s your name?”
“Sara.” She said quietly.
Jaye really watched her, then. Her body language was extremely timid. She wrung her nail-bitten hands, looking like she might bolt, any second.
“It’s okay. I just want to talk.”
She bent down so she was eye-level. The girl looked Indian…At least part of her was. She was sure of it. She had brown eyes set in a round, deeply olive-colored face, layered with long stick straight black hair. She guessed she was around eight years old.
“I’m Jaye.” She reached out her hand.
The little girl jumped back, about a foot. Jaye looked around, realizing something was missing.
“Where are your parents?”
The girl shuffled away, her elephant charm practically shouting as it bounced.
“-TALK! -TO! -HER!”
“Wait. Wait!” as she caught the girl’s shoulders, a tall pale redhead came from around a corner and placed a relieved hand over her heart.
“Oh, there you are…Thank God.”
“Don’t you ever run away like that, again!” She hugged her.
“You must’ve found her.” She said turning to Jaye.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Thank you…She’s disabled. She has problems communicating with people.”
“Oh…Well, she told me her name.”
The lady looked at her, gaping in disbelief.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, she told me her name was Sara.”
“…She hasn’t spoken a word since she was five.”
“I’m Jaye.” She said.
“Lilian Barrett.” She shook her hand.
The lady rooted through her purse. “Listen, please give me a call when you can? Perhaps, if you- See her…”
“-She’ll speak again?”
“Yes.” She said, her eyes a bit glassy.
“…Here’s my card.”
Jaye took the card and looked down at the elephant.
It winked at her.
Mahandra and Aaron sat on her loveseat and watched Aliens…
Aaron shifted the bowl of popcorn over her lap, so Mahandra could get a handful.
“Oh, this part always gets me. There’s one on the ship!”
“Mahandra, you know they can’t hear you.”
“Well, yeah. I know that!” Mahandra said, scrunching up her face…
“That’s not the point.”
Aaron grinned. “Whatever you say.”
Her doorbell rang. She paused the movie.
She peaked out and opened it, practically spilling Jaye into her place.
“Listen, I told you I’m busy.”
“I know, I know…but.” She blinked when saw Aaron, with his feet up on her coffee table.
“Oh. -Hey Aaron.”
“‘Sup.” He said, putting up a hand.
She sighed. “I’ve been keeping something from you, Mahandra.”
Mahandra shifted her weight to one leg and sighed.
“Inanimate objects, animals specifically, talk to you.”
“Inani- Whut? How did-?” Jaye said, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Aaron put up his hand, again.
“You’ve always been crazy, Jaye. This is not new. I can deal.”
Jaye’s eyes widened, her expression flitting between anger at Aaron and amazement that Mahandra was taking this so calmly.
“Besides, you seem less…closed, since you’ve been talking to them. I figure -they’re keeping you out of trouble.”
“Aaron, how much have you told her??” Jaye asked, angrily.
He winced. “Everything?”
“Hey, don’t get mad at him. I’m your best friend, remember? You should have told me.”
“I was getting to it.”
“Uh-huh. So, what’s going on?”
“Well, you know I need a date place-“
-“Of which you know several, but can’t remember, because you’ve dissed all of your suitors. -Go on.-”
“-And a blue elephant on a keychain told me to talk to a random girl on the street. It turned out she hadn’t spoken to anyone since she was five. So, now her mother wants me to perform miracles.”
“Uh-huh.” Mahandra said.
“Well, it seems that you’ve already performed a miracle. From what you’ve said.” Aaron said.
“Ashhpshh!!” Mahandra furiously waved. “Don’t blow up her ego. An elephant did help her, after all…So, what’s the problem?”
“What if I can’t do it again? Her mother seemed so happy, I don’t want to disappoint them.”
“What if you can do it again? ‘What if’s’ do no good. They just keep you from making a decision.”
“Oh, really?” Aaron said, sarcastically.
Mahandra gave him the side-eye. “We’re talking about Jaye.’
“Maybe you’ll appreciate Eric a bit more, if you think about those other dates…
Look. Just try to remember those places those poor saps took you to and call this lady.”
“Sure. Yeah.” Jaye replied, stiffly.
Jaye turned and left.
Mahandra plopped back down beside Aaron while he wrapped a long arm around her shoulder.
She pressed play.
The alien killed the pilot, before she could fire her gun.
She cringed up into his embrace. “Aww damn! With the retractable teeth!”
Jaye sat at the bar.
Eric excitedly went to her spot.
“So, have you thought of a place?”
“No. Mahandra says I should remember some, but I can’t.”
A man sitting next to her sneezed really hard. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose. In the corner of it was the stitched face of a pug.
It said, “Camp Red Springs.”
“Ever heard of Camp Red Springs?” She said, tentatively.
“It just came to mind. I think we…should go there.” She said, almost cheerfully. “I just -don’t know much about it.”
“Okay.” Eric said shaking his head. He leaned over the counter and gave her a quick kiss.
“Look it up and we’ll go.”
When Jaye got back to her trailer she called Lilian.
“So, when would you like to meet?”
“Is this weekend okay, for you? I’m thinking Saturday, at noon.”
“Sure!” She said, trying her best to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She failed.
“What’s your address?”
“390 Green Rd. It’s just outside of Niagara, in Camp Red Springs.”
Jaye’s face dropped.
“…Could you give me directions?”
Eric grinned broadly as he drove down the dirt-road.
“Wow, this place is great, very beautiful.”
And it was. Despite the winter temperatures, the forest was a rich green color. Th trees were adapted to this environment. Eric had rented a cabin with a fireplace. It would be cozy in the cold weather.
“Just remember, I have to take care of some business first.” she reminded him, as she squinted at the directions.
“I hope you meant what you said…” Aaron said.
“Mmm, said about what?”
“Oh yeah, that.” Mahandra clasped her palms together.“Yes, and I said, I meant it for Jaye.”
“Well, at some point you’re going to have to talk to them. They know about us, now.”
More knocking on her door, this time with vocal accompaniment.
“Mahandra? Mahandra, dear? Can we talk?”
“It’s Mrs. Tyler!” She whispered fiercely. She set about trying to herd Aaron into her closet.
“No.” He said taking her hand. “I’m not hiding. I’m not ashamed of us. And you shouldn’t be either.”
Mahandra sighed, thoughtfully. “You’re right.”
“Coming, Mrs. Tyler!”
She opened the door. Both of the Tylers stood in her entryway.
“Oh! Mahandra!” She said, giving her a big hug.
“Finally! Aaron’s seeing a decent girl…Heck, you’re already practically a part of the family. ”
“Hey! I’m here too.” Aaron said.
“Sorry, dear.” She pecked him on the cheek.
“So, how long has it been?” They grinned hugely and stared at them, in anticipation.
Mahandra and Aaron looked at the Tylers, like they had an extra head between them.
“Um…This is awkward.” Mahandra said. “I was afraid you’d have a problem with me dating your son.”
“Oh, Mahandra dear, whatever for?” Mrs. Tyler laughed. “Who cares if you’re black?”
Aaron sighed and put a hand to his forehead. He looked like he was getting a headache.
“Uh, no. …I thought because I practically grew up in your family, that it would be weird.”
They looked at each other… ”oh.”
“Oh no, of course not!”
“We’re happy for you.” Mr. Tyler said.
“Well, I’m glad.” Mahandra replied. There was another awkward moment.
Aaron spoke up. “Listen, we were kinda’ in the middle of watching a movie…”
“Oh, of course, get back to your movie. And I see popcorn too!”
Mrs, Tyler squealed once more a little bit too enthusiastically, before her husband began to lead her out.
“Honey, let’s go.”
As the door shut behind them, Aaron intoned.
“You were right to be afraid.”
He shook his head and they sat back down on the couch.
Jaye rang the doorbell.
Lilian and another man she hadn’t met answered the door.
“Great. You came. This is Steven, my husband.”
As she shook his hand, she noted that he seemed vaguely familiar. Clearly, they had either adopted the girl or she was a stepdaughter to one of them, because he was just as pale as she was.
“Jaye. You don’t remember me, do you.”
“I think, I might…You look sorta’’ familiar.”
“We went to high school together, remember?”
She gasped, as she suddenly remembered. “Steven, the Demon?!”
Back when she knew him in high school, he was a slick Senior who bullied all of the underclassmen, except herself. He was a punk ten years after the scene had died. All multi-colored hair and sneers.
Now, he was this Park Ranger-looking guy.
He had brought her up here to Camp Red Springs, when she was fifteen.
She’d hated it.
His friends listened to loud music and drank beer, while he was surprisingly friendly. A complete 180 degree turn from his persona in high school. She remembered grimacing through the whole date, while he tried his best to make her feel comfortable.
The realization, that he had indeed been doing his best, made her feel like shit. She had gone home without saying a word of thanks and forgotten that night, until now.
She’d even snapped at him, the few times he attempted to talk to her, afterward. Wow, she was a real bitch.
Sara’s keychain hung on a rack near the door.
The elephant looked up again, “Talk to her.”
She kept her eyes, firmly on the couple.
“Right.” She forced a smile. “So, where is Sara?”
“In the living room, playing with her toys.”
“We’ll be in the kitchen.” She couldn’t help but wonder, what might have been, as she watched him rub her arms. He had grown into a handsome man.
Sara was stacking blocks.
She knelt down beside her. “Hi, Sara. Remember me?”
She looked up and nodded her head.
“Why?…” Jaye began.
“Why, do you talk to me and not your parents? It’s clear that they love you very much.”
“Instead of answering, she looked up at her keychain.”
The realization settled on her, like a ton of bricks.
“Oh, my God. You hear it too.”
She nodded again.
Ripley rode down the elevator shaft, organizing her weapons.
Mahandra had fallen asleep on Aaron’s lap, shortly after Vasquez and Gorman blew themselves up.
Aaron stroked her hair and watched her sleep.
“You shouldn’t worry so much. I’ve loved you since we were kids.”
Jaye just played with her, stacking her own set of blocks. Sara wouldn’t let her touch hers.
Sara leaned forward and whispered so quietly, anyone who was eavesdropping, which she was sure her parents were doing, couldn’t hear.
“The elephant means, Mahandra.”
“How do you?…”
Jaye blinked several times. “Wow.”
Eric busily prepared the cabin. The fire was roaring. He had gotten lots of food from a convenience store on the grounds and was now cooking.
Jaye stepped through the front door.
“It’s just me!” She yelled.
She inhaled. “It smells really good in here.”
She lept into his arms and kissed him. “Woah…Where is this coming from? You’re usually not this affectionate.”
“I just realized, I should appreciate what I’ve got.” She said, cocking her head.
“How’d the meeting go?”
“Well.” She said.
“I think, I’m going to keep seeing her.”
He put a hand to her head.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking for a fever…You’re trying to be consistent. You must not be well.” He said, shaking his head.
She punched him in the arm.
Jaye made up what Sara had said, saying she talked a bit about her blocks. They had literally cried into each other’s arms. Incredibly, she even felt herself tearing up. In addition to her talking she could hear the meaning of the objects.
Seeing Steven had made her realize that maybe, it was worth looking beneath the surface of people, sometimes. Perhaps, she should stop being so dismissive.
Of course, ‘should’ didn’t mean ‘will’.
She even made a date to see Sara again, on the following weekend. And Mahandra. Of course, Mahandra. Why hadn’t she told her about the talking animals?? She’d taken it so well.
And Aaron hooking up with her. Good for him. He had a crush on her ever since they were kids. It was about time they’d gotten together.
These secrets they’d kept from each other and they were supposed to be best friends.
The elephant was right.
“Well, Mahandra, I’ve gotta get back to the homestead.” Aaron said.
“Good luck, dealing with the family.”
He slipped on his pageboy hat and wrapped his scarf around his neck. He bent over to kiss her and turned to leave…
She grabbed the door before it could close.
“…Since we were kids, huh?”
I had to continue on and do another ‘episode’. It felt like a two-parter.
A little brown girl with two pink ribbon tied afro-puffs on her head, stood in the center of several circling white kids.
She clutched her Wonderwoman lunch box to her chest and yelled, “Shut-Up!”
Another little girl, this one wearing a plaid dress and two long brown plaits pushed through and grabbed her arm.
“Stop, being mean, Joseph!” She said poking her face out.
The little brown girl swung her lunch box around, smacking him hard in the arm.
Joseph fell to the ground.
“Oww!” He screamed. He got up and ran, “Miss Hinkle!!”
“What’s your name?” The plaid-wearing girl asked.
“Mahandra.” The brown girl replied.
She nodded her head.
“My name’s Jaye. Let’s be friends!”
“Ok.” She replied, bobbing her head, eagerly.
They held hands and skipped along the playground.
In the time since Jaye had been seeing Sara, no animals had been talking to her. Oddly, she was torn between feeling relieved and missing it. But she only let on about the former.
Jaye spun happily, “I’m not crazy anymore!”
-hmph- “I beg to differ.” Mahandra replied.
“So, why do you think they stopped talking?”
Jaye shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I’m happy with Eric, I’m helping the Barretts. What reason do they have to interrupt this? I’m doing good things.”
Jaye was practically glowing with happiness.
“This is the most normal I’ve ever seen you, so you do have a point…But this?” She said waving her hand over her smiling face. “… is scary.”
Mahandra, suddenly clasped her hand over her face. “You had sex! Didn’t you?”
“Actually no. We just cuddled by the fire. Eric didn’t want to rush things, since he’d only just divorced his ex, but it was… nice.”
She had a wistful look in her eyes.
Mahandra smiled. “Jaye’s in love. The world must be ending …It’s about time!”
Aaron jogged up behind them.
“How are my ladies?” He said as he sandwiched them together in a hug. His face was propped on their shoulders between them.
Mahandra stopped walking and looked up at him sternly.
“Okay, I’m your lady…Jaye? She’s your sister.”
“You know, I didn’t mean it that way-”
“-still-sounds-gross-” She said, raising her index finger with the side-eye.
Aaron grinned. “You’re so cute when you’re angry.”
“-Ah! Dirty word!” But when he bent over to kiss her on the cheek, she angled up, so it was easier for him to reach.
They all strolled through the cold streets of the center square. The whole area was decorated with bright red paper lanterns.
It was Chinese New Year. The parade would begin soon.
Sara did continue to talk, even to her parents.
Jaye speculated that it had been such a relief to be open with someone about the animals, that it eased her. She still said very few words, but at least the ones she used, made sense.
She’d even told her parents that she loved them. There was a lot of tissue used on that day.
Jaye had grown close to the girl. She could prattle on about her work-days with “Mouthbreather” and she would just contribute a laugh or nod her head.
Occasionally, she would offer a hug or bring out a favored toy, all of them, animals. But the toys never talked.
She seemed happy about the quiet, too.
She’d learned that the girl was Steven’s daughter from his time with a local Indian girl named Ahmayah. She had been the rebellious sort, sleeping with him to spite her own father, who was extremely strict with her.
She too had adopted the punk look and attitude. They sneaked out together, drinking and drugging. She’d gotten pregnant shortly after high school and Steven did the right thing, in his mind, marrying her.
It had been a turbulent time. In addition to the fighting, Ahmayah felt guilty, thinking her daughter’s issues were her fault.
Because they loved Sara so much, they’d both resolved to get clean. With lots of sacrifice and determination, they succeeded. They’d even fallen for each other, in the process.
So, when Ahmayah was killed by two dealers looking to settle her debts, he was crushed.
Lilian had gotten intimate a year and half later…She had been their social worker.
“Why don’t they bother you?” Mahandra asked.
“It’s ’cause, I’m tough…” Jaye replied.
Even at five she could see that a lot of the kids didn’t like her. They seemed to be working hard at ignoring her.
Fifteen minutes before the bell rang, the third graders came outside to join them at recess.
A lanky brown-haired boy, with cowlicks sticking up everywhere eyed the kindergartners menacingly. They cringed back.
“He’s being mean.” Mahandra said.
“No, that’s just my brother.”
“Is that why they don’t bother you?”
“…Maybe.” Jaye said, shyly.
Mahandra opened up her lunch box, which didn’t contain lunch or the usual dolls.
She had a G.I. Joe, which had been colored on and redressed in a strip of rough cloth.
“He’s Tarzan!” Mahandra yelled. She tried and failed miserably to do his yodel.
Aaron looked over and saw his sister playing with a little brown girl. She held in her hands the much coveted G.I. Joe toy. All the boys in his class wanted one. Even he hadn’t gotten one yet.
And here was this strange little girl playing with one that she had ruined with brown crayon marks and semi-nakedness.
He ran over, looking completely aghast.
“How could you that to G.I. Joe?!”
She stood up, looking fierce. “He’s not Joe! He’s Tarzan!”
“You baby! You’ve ruined him!” He bent down to pick it up but she kicked him in the hip.
-oof!- “That hurt!”
He pushed her down and immediately regretted it. She had scrapped her elbow.
Tears eased down her cheeks.
Jaye knelt down by her side.
“Ma. -Handra’s my friend, Aaron!”
He opened his mouth to say “Sorry.” but Miss Hinkle was headed their way.
He walked away. But he looked back at the sobbing girl and felt awful.
A beautifully decorated float glided by. Chinese-Americans trailed behind, waving.
Jaye’s cellphone buzzed. She looked over at Aaron and Mahandra, grinning. She knew it could only be Eric. She answered cheerfully.
She heard sniffling on the other end and her smile faded.
“I’m sorry, Jaye…It’s Steven. Sara’s dead.”
Jaye’s mouth fell open and her eyes immediately filled with tears.
“She, – she died in her sleep, last night. She just stopped breathing.”
“Oh. no.” Her sobs were coming in earnest now.
Aaron reached across to squeeze her shoulder. Mahandra was already starting to tear up herself, even though she didn’t know what had happened.
“We’re-. having a memorial service in three days. I’ll call you back later with the time.”
“Okay, Mr. Barrett.” She said quietly. “Do you need anything?”
“No… We’ll call if we need anything.”
She could hear Lilian softly crying in the background. There was a click.
She closed her phone and looked up at them both.
“Sara’s dead.” She broke down then and Mahandra joined her, hugging her tightly, as they did.
After the sobs had subsided a bit, she told them what had happened.
As she did, one of the many hanging red lanterns bobbed into her view.
It was decorated on the side with a traditional-looking green dragon, it’s mouth drawn back, a long forked tongue waving out of it’s mouth.
It’s voice was deep. “Back to work.”, it said.
Jaye reached out and tore it down, stomping on it until it was obliterated.
Mahandra and Aaron backed up, looking frightened and confused.
All of the dragons on the lanterns in the square chimed in chorus, “Back to work.”
Eric rubbed her shoulders and kissed her forehead as they sat together inside her trailer.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I feel so helpless.” She said shaking her head.
“Sara didn’t deserve this. She was a great kid. And I don’t even like kids.” She said, as tears leaked out of her eyes.
“…Mourn.”, he said hugging her, tightly.
Her phone rang. She picked it up to click off the ringer, but she saw who it was and was reminded of her forgotten responsibilities.
“Alec, I really can’t come in, right now…” She said, her voice hicking.
“But we need you, there are a lot of tourists in town for Chinese New Year and…” His voice trailed off.
“A friend of mine just died.”
“Oh.” He stood on the other end, looking lost. Several customers were glaring at him, angrily.
Jaye squeezed her eyes shut. “Look, Alec? Just give me a half an hour.”
She hung up before he could respond. She jumped up from her bed and slipped on her work-vest.
She ran her hands through her hair and grabbed her coat.
“Are you sure, you wanna do this? He’ll understand if you take off for the day.” Eric said following her.
“No. It’ll be good for me. I want to not think about this for awhile.”
“Then, at least let me drive.”
Aaron watched them play in the backyard, from the kitchen screen-door.
This time, Manhandra’s hair was tied up in a single puff on top of her head. She had tied “Tarzan” by a string, his vine, to their tree.
Jaye was waiting on the other end of the yard with “Jane”, a Barbie she had put a rag on.
On the ground was a menagerie of plastic animals.
“Okay! Ready, Jaye?” Mahandra yelled.
Jaye nodded vigorously.
Mahandra let out her Tarzan yell.
“She let Tarzan swing down and amazingly, it reached Jaye, who caught it deftly. She brought Jane around to join him.
They both ran behind the swinging string, both toys tied to the end, giggling like banshees.
Sharon sat at the kitchen table trying to study.
“I wish they’d shut-up.” She said.
Mrs. Tyler came gliding into the kitchen.
“Ignore them, dear.” She said, as she stopped at the screen-door, her hand on her son’s shoulder.
Mr. Tyler joined them, settling at the table to read the paper.
“…Listen to your mother.”
Sharon sighed, loudly.
“It’s nice to see Jaye’s finally found a friend.” Mr. Tyler said, not looking up from his paper.
“Yes. It is.” Mrs. Tyler said, smiling.
Aaron just continued to watch them play, frowning as he spied the big Smurfs’ bandage on Mahandra’s elbow.
Jaye busily rang up the rotund man’s many items, while he prattled on about all the sight-seeing he’d done in Niagara.
“-Uh-Huh.” She said, not listening.
From a shelf, half-way across the store, she heard a squeaky voice say, “Buy Me! Buy Me!”
She finished ringing up the man and left the register in the middle of his story. The people in line behind him groaned.
She ran to the spot the voice was coming from and found a small gold charm. It was a golden panda holding a mirror.
It kept screaming “Buy Me! Buy Me!”
From what she could see, it was the last one in the store.
She went back to the register and purchased it, eliciting more groans from the waiting customers.
Alec, stood behind her, but held his tongue. He figured she was distracted by her friend’s death. He simply waved them on to a new register.
Aaron watched the two girls skipping down the sidewalk.
He had finally built up his courage. “Mahandra!” Her hair was back in two afro-puffs.
She stopped. Jaye, stood by her looking ready to defend her.
“I’m sorry, I pushed you.” He said looking down.
“….Look, I made you this parachute for Tarzan.”
Mahandra took it and twisted up her face.
“Tarzan doesn’t parashoot!”
Jaye spun her around and said, “Let’s go Ma-handra.”
Aaron looked hurt. He had spent a good portion of his Saturday morning making it for her. He’d even missed his favorite cartoons.
“Well, you’re just babies, anyway…You wouldn’t understand.”, he said and trudged off.
Jaye was at the memorial service. Eric held her hand, while they stood in the crowded living room.
An urn sat on their fireplace mantle, surrounded by the girl’s most treasured possessions.
Jaye let his hand go and placed a small bouquet of yellow lilies near the urn.
“Goodbye Sara. We had a lot in common.” She said, choking up a bit.
Lilian began to sob in earnest and she turned into her husband’s embrace.
“Oh, Eric.” She said quietly.
“Go to them.” He said.
When she reached them, she opened her clutch to look for a tissue. As she pulled a few out, the charm fell with it.
The Barretts both knelt down to help her pick it up. They both looked at it, their eyes wide and then back to each other, awestruck.
“Where did you get this?!” Steven asked.
“–At the gift shop where I work. Why?”
“Sara had a charm, just like this on that keychain she loved so much. She used to just sit and stare at it, turning it around in her hands…”
Lillian was deep in the memory.
“She lost it, when she was five. Afterwords, she stopped talking.”
Jaye stood up without a word and walked over to Sara’s urn. She lifted up Sara’s keychain, which lay nearby. She slid the charm on the keyring and stood back.
“There, Sara. It’s back.”
She turned to Eric, her eyes shining and he embraced her.
Aaron was back in Mahandra’s apartment and they lay together on her bed, this time fully clothed. Soft jazz played in the background.
“You think she’ll call soon?” Mahandra asked, quietly.
“I’m sure she will. She just needs some time.”
“Just when things were looking good for her, this happens.” Mahandra sighed.
As he held her tight, his eyes wandered around her room. Like Jaye, she had a peculiar decorating style. Random knick-knacks were everywhere.
He smiled when he spied one in particular.
“Mahandra, what’s that?”
“Oh that??” She said pointing at the corner of the ceiling.
“Oh, that’s just a toy I had when I was five, my Tarzan.”
Aaron turned and looked her as if seeing her in a new way, grinning broadly. He gave her a kiss.
“What was that for?”
“Oh, nothing.”, he said and she settled back in his arms.
Her Tarzan dangled in the corner of the ceiling, swaying gently from the strings of an old homemade parachute.